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Founder of KeokeN Interactive, Hunchback Music

Paul Deetman

the journey by enty
From Filming Fan Movies in the Backyard to Game Development Studio: The Inspiring Story of KeokeN Interactive
Business is not only about money and paperwork. Most of all, it’s about people, inspiration, and passion. With that in mind, we present you the Journey — a new project where entrepreneurs share how they started their business, what made them successful, what drives them, and how they came up with what they ended up doing.

Our first guest is Paul Deetman —
founder of game development company
KeokeN Interactive & music production studio Hunchback Music.
We were recording our version
of Star Wars in our backyard

Comic Books, First Camcorder,

and Fan-made Movies

— My brother and I started our companies (Keoken Interactive and Hunchback Music) around 8 years ago. We were always fooling around with ways to tell stories. When we were kids, we drew our own comic books, recorded stories on cassettes, and filmed our own versions of big blockbuster films.

I remember recording these adventures about our favorite toys on our radio cassette player. Our dad eventually got us a camcorder, and we filmed our own version of Star Wars, James Bond, and Scream in our backyard.
1999 / Star Wars
Koen and Paul
We loved fooling around with practical effects, editing the footage, and coming up with cheap solutions to tell our stories. So, we thought, hey, let’s do this more professionally. My brother enrolled in the first game study program in the Netherlands and I dove deeper into audio engineering. Games are a beautiful art form where we could combine all the disciplines we love into one entertainment product.

Turning Hobby Into Business

— Both of us soon figured out we actually wanted to fill our working life with creating big entertainment projects. We planned to go back to the universities later on. But since we started our companies, we didn’t have time for anything else on the side.

We started out on the kitchen table. We stole our sister’s whiteboard and opened our laptops. Let’s go pretending to be a company, we said. Our dream project was a horror game that we had in mind.

While we were trying to figure out how to actually create something like that, we created some websites, some application designs, and invested everything back into the company to achieve our dream. We also kept pitching music for campaigns.

Money Talks

My brother and I literally spent our last money to travel to a big game development convention in the US to find a new partner
Pitching was often met by the disappointment of not being placed, eventually, some followed through with great financial benefits. Lots of opportunities, but nothing sustainable to rely on at that time.

Eventually, we got a Dutch subsidy (Stimuleringsfonds) that helped us realize our projects further and also landed our first big music placements (Marvel’s Daredevil, Alien: Covenant) and got some liquidity from the side work of our co-founder and former partner, Johan Terink.

But we still continued to work on our game. By that time, our idea transformed from a horror to a Moonman — an adventure among the stars that started as a 4-month project and that eventually took 4 years of development. It is now known as our indie debut hit, "Deliver Us The Moon".
Our debut game was well-received and scored 8.5/10 on Steam. Besides the reception, we finally had the confirmation that we could make and release our own game IP. This eventually led to collaboration with our current publisher — Frontier Developments, who enabled us to amp up our ambition for Deliver Us Mars.

Creating Deliver Us the Moon

— With Deliver Us the Moon, our ambitions were sky-high. And we needed more budget to realize our big blockbuster ambitions. So we came up with crowdfunding on Kickstarter. Preparing for our Kickstarter campaign took around 4–6 months and we needed to get everything together.
We had a little prototype of the game, we made beautiful screenshots and we tried to show as much content as we could. We even created a 10-minute vlog about the development. Furthermore, we needed to push everything to the best of our ability to sell the vision. We successfully raised a little over € 100,000.

With that money, we grew the team a bit, got some better computers and traveled the world to find a partner for publishing. Eventually, we found a publishing partner that ramped up the development budget with around € 500,000. We could grow the team bigger and come closer to our ambitions.

Per Aspera ad Astra

Focus too much on raising capital or contracted work that will fuel the project you actually want to work on, and there is a strong chance you trap yourself into a loop
So, after two years of development, the future of the project turned a bit south. Our publisher had to focus on different priorities, so we mutually had to break from the deal. That reality made us lose more than half of our people but we were determined to finish the game and release it ourselves with a bare minimum team. We pursued other investments to keep us afloat and make sure we could finish our title properly. We released our game independently but soon discovered we needed more force to bring this to market.
My brother and I literally spent our last money to travel to a big game development convention in the US to find a new partner. We eventually found Wired Productions, who helped us publish "Deliver Us The Moon" the proper way.

We collaborated on localization, ported versions for PlayStation, Xbox, physical editions of the game, and even produced our own collector’s edition. This eventually led to collaboration with our current publisher Frontier Developments who enabled us to amp up our ambition for Deliver Us Mars which is coming out on the 2nd of February 2023.

Focus, Passion, Balance

The line between being responsible and irresponsible is very thin, and you really have to believe in your vision
Looking back at when we started, it was pretty much an experiment. You do everything to the best of your knowledge to pull your vision into reality. Well, back then, our focus wasn’t always on the right priorities.

I believe when you start a company, you have to have a clear vision and a very practical attitude. Being naive is a blessing. We just started executing our ideas without taking everything into account right away. Try to create something feasible and of value and try to find ways to raise capital to keep manifesting your vision into reality.
But there is a tricky part. Focus too much on raising capital or contracted work that will fuel the project you actually want to work on, and there is a strong chance you trap yourself into a loop.

It was the case with us, we realized that most of our contract work didn’t make us happy and that we needed to focus on our own project, our game, and the campaigns we loved. We needed to take the risk and push full force on our dreams.

Customer

Put as much value into the product as you can, create many opportunities around you, and don’t be afraid of failure
We are so happy to create relatable stories and believable worlds for the gamers in our demographic. Our view of a target player has indeed changed. When we first self-published our debut game "Deliver Us The Moon" on PC, we soon noticed that our demographic was a little older than we expected. These players are actually more drawn to consoles and play on their Playstation or Xbox instead of a high-end PC.
So porting the game to PS and Xbox was the priority to reach a wider audience. With limited resources, we had to figure out how to port the game to different consoles and that is hard for an indie developer.

Fortunately, we found a perfect partner who could make all of these things possible, helping us out, so you can play the game on PlayStation and Xbox, later in the time even on cloud gaming. This is also why we will release "Deliver Us  Mars" on the old-gen consoles — Playstation 4 and Xbox One, as well as for Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X/S.
For Hunchback Music it is rather simple: we mainly work with other production companies. If we do a trailer for a Marvel movie or a game trailer, we collaborate with the developer, publisher, or media agency. Check out, for example, Control, Alan Wake, or the latest Deliver Us Mars Trailer to get an impression. If it’s not something custom, we have an extensive cinematic production library ready to use for any impactful campaigns.
As for Hunchback as a brand in itself, we now expand and create a community of music creators, film & game enthusiasts, editors, and people in the music industry. We produce videos where we react to our favorite trailers, share music production tips and talk about the music industry.

Hiring

— When you think of your first employee, think of relief for yourself. In the beginning, you wear so many hats, and you try to hold so many balls in the air. We were and are always looking for people that are better than us. Whenever we found an opportunity we delegated to people that dreamed of fulfilling that specific discipline.

We also didn’t pay salaries ourselves but gave it to our first employees. We hired two business developers. They helped us out trying to sell something and get people tagging along with the vision.

Always try to figure out where your priorities are and don’t be afraid to invest in people if your resources allow you to. The more you can find better people to dedicate their love and dedication to a specific discipline, the better you can spearhead your company and have more room for growth.

Salaries

— We offer people what we can at the time and hope to grow in the future. My brother and I try to be as transparent as we can about the current state of our companies and our projects to the people we work with. Our employees understand the opportunistic vision of the future but also the problems that we face in reality.

We are in the entertainment industry. People are really jumping to get in here. If you are into games, movies, or music production, we have a very fun company. It’s never been about scarcity in people. But that doesn’t mean we just exploit people with the bare minimum.
We are 35 people now, sharing our wins and raising the benefits where we find opportunities. We are privileged enough to have amazing talent around us!

Success

— We love entertainment and we love telling stories. So, we do what we love and push forward beyond reason. The line between being responsible and irresponsible is very thin, and you really have to believe in your vision.
I think the expectation is that things move faster than you envision. The reality of growth is that it really takes a long time. It’s like planting a seed and waiting for a tree to grow. You need to nurture it daily. We see these prestige wins online where it looks like an instant success. My generation and the next one have trouble seeing the reality of growth and seek instant gratification. What looks like an overnight success, isn’t a reflection of reality.

For everyone that is interested in starting up their own company, I can only say: in the beginning, put as much value into the product as you can, create many opportunities around you, and don’t be afraid of failure. Failure will pave the road to success if you don’t give up. Take massive action and manifest by doing. Don’t compare someone’s result to your beginnings. There is no such thing as overnight success. The more opportunities you create, the luckier you get.

Thank you for reading Paul’s story, hope you’ve enjoyed it. If you are looking to share your story, please leave use the form below and we will contact you back. Cheers!